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“I’ll give you an extra £10,000 a year to stay”

This was the final nail in the coffin, I’d just resigned – and my newish boss then made me this offer. Twelve months earlier I’d applied for a promoted position (his job) but was told I didn’t have the breadth of experience (I was 27). After a year of poor communication, mood swings and lack of leadership (from him!) - I’d had enough. The conflict in my head was now resolved. I now had confirmation that I had been undervalued for a while, and I was even more determined to leave.

Fast forward 25 years. I’m now more convinced than ever that the pandemic has shone a true light on the current cost of conflict - and it’s huge. Conflict also has a multitude of different faces – it’s in our own heads, domestically, inter-departmental and externally – but it can also present opportunity. According to research conducted in 2018/19 the annual cost of internal company conflict alone in the UK ‘was’ a staggering £14.9 billion* (lower productivity, lost output, recruitment). Expect the costs post pandemic to be a lot higher still across the board. I suspect that there are years of pent up dissatisfied ‘chickens’ that are still yet to come home to roost….

For me, it’s no coincidence that current employee turnover rates and job vacancies are at record highs. Employees continue to re-evaluate their priorities as quality of life becomes a much more important benchmark from which to assess the satisfaction we have with our ‘workplace’. The companies that in the past banked on the fact that employees, although dissatisfied, weren’t motivated enough to do anything about it should be very, very concerned.

So, what is a concerned but proactive company to do? Employ Emotional Intelligence (EI) across the three conflict resolution pillars of Objectivity, Empathy and Creativity.

Objectivity – Identify and accurately assess the risks from key roles. What are the current levels of satisfaction? How good are the current incumbents? How easy would it be to find replacements/merge roles if necessary? What would the cost of change be? What impact might change have on the wider team?

Empathy – Engaging and assessing the emotional temperature and acting accordingly. Asking great questions ‘what are your priorities?’, ‘which is more important?’, ‘just suppose?’, ‘what if?’, ‘what would success look like?’. Listening carefully to the answers and reflecting back. Structuring expectations but taking time before coming back with considered comment. Building both the relationship and openness.

Creativity – Leverage the openness and promote a stake in the future - focus on encouraging dialogue on different strategies which can achieve the objectives for both sides. Freedom to express new ideas with greater cooperation will help to foster more innovative solutions which may have otherwise remained undiscovered.

At Savage Macbeth our Emotion Awareness Tool (E.A.T.) helps people to assess their own emotions and those of others – improving skills and building strategies to employ higher levels of Emotional Intelligence (EI). We’re recognising the importance of EI – are you?

Applying your own (EI) ‘self-awareness’ to your current situation, how much is internal conflict costing your business now and how much will it be tomorrow?

Sam Macbeth, 13th January 2022

*Estimating the cost of workplace conflict

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